A ceremonial Kiddush cup
Recommendation regarding the application by M. K. for the restitution of a silver Kiddush cup (NK 3519)
In a letter dated 2 May 2005, the State Secretary for Culture, Education and Science (‘the State Secretary’) asked the Restitutions Committee to issue a recommendation regarding the application by Mr M. K. for the restitution of a silver Kiddush cup with Hebrew inscription that is part of the Dutch National Art Collection under inventory number NK 3519.
On 6 April 2005, Mr M. K., residing in H., submitted his application for restitution to the State Secretary in response to a letter from the Origins Unknown Agency dated 13 December 2004, in which Mr K. and other members of his family were informed of the presence of the Kiddush cup in the Netherlands Art Property Collection, which, according to a recent investigation, may have belonged to the applicant’s great-grandfather.
In response to the request for a recommendation presented to it by the State Secretary on 2 May 2005, the Restitutions Committee instituted a fact-finding investigation, for which it used the results of an investigation into the provenance of the cup conducted by the Origins Unknown Agency as well as a study conducted by J. Kröger, employee of the Jewish Historical Museum. The Committee’s research results, summarised in a draft report, were submitted to the applicant for comment on 14 February 2006. The final report was adopted by the Committee on 3 April 2006. This report is considered an integral part of this recommendation.
The Restitutions Committee has given priority to this application for restitution because of the applicant’s advanced age. Nevertheless, the research required for this recommendation eventually took quite a bit of time.
a) The Committee has drawn up its opinion with due regard for the relevant (lines of) policy issued by the Ekkart Committee and the government.
b) The Committee asked itself whether it is acceptable that an opinion to be issued is influenced by its potential consequences for decisions in subsequent cases. The Committee resolved that such influence cannot be accepted, save in cases where special circumstances apply, since allowing such influence would be impossible to justify to the applicant concerned.
c) The Committee then asked itself how to deal with the circumstance that certain facts can no longer be ascertained, that certain information has been lost or has not been recovered, or that evidence can no longer be otherwise compiled. On this issue the Committee believes that, if the problems that have arisen can be attributed at least in part to the lapse of time, the associated risk should be borne by the government, save in cases where exceptional circumstances apply.
d) The Committee believes that insights and circumstances which, according to generally accepted views, have evidently changed since the Second World War should be granted the status of new facts.
e) Involuntary loss of possession is also understood to mean sale without the art dealer’s consent by ‘Verwalters’ [Nazi-appointed caretakers who took over management of firms owned by Jews] or other custodians not appointed by the owner of items from the old trading stock under their custodianship, in so far as the original owner or his heirs did not receive all the profits of the transaction, or in so far as the owner did not expressly waive his rights after the war.
Mr M. K. requests the restitution of the Kiddush cup (NK 3519) on his own behalf and on behalf of four other descendants of his great-grandfather Hartog Koopman Sr., who was born in 1809 or 1810 and died in 1892 in Oud-Beijerland, viz. A.E.L. D.-S. residing in Z., F.R. H.-C. (calling herself K.) residing in A., New Zealand, M.I.C. M.-M. residing in H. and J.E. S. residing in A. Mr M. K. (‘the applicant’) said the following about this:
I have been in touch with the above individuals and we agree that we want to submit an application for restitution, which I am doing now. Following restitution we will consult on what to do with the cup.
In this context, the Committee learned about the existence of two certificates of inheritance, drafted by C. Scheltema Beduin, civil-law notary in Amsterdam, proving that the applicant and his sister, F.R. H.-C., are the heirs of two of Hartog Koopman Sr.’s sons., viz. the applicant’s great-uncle Abraham Koopman and the applicant’s grandfather Hartog Koopman Jr. The Committee also took cognisance of the investigation by the Central Bureau for Genealogy, which shows that Hartog Koopman Sr. and his wife Saartje van den Berg had twelve children.
The application concerns a silver Kiddush cup with an inscription in Hebrew, which has been part of the Dutch National Art Collection since 1946. In the Jewish tradition, the word Kiddush – which literally means consecration – refers to the blessing of a glass or goblet of wine at the beginning and end of the Sabbath and other holy days and ceremonies. Until recently, the provenance of this Kiddush cup (NK 3519) and the meaning of the Hebrew inscription were not known. At the end of 2004, J. Kröger, employee of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and a specialist in Hebrew texts, conducted research into the Kiddush cup and its inscription. The inscription was translated as follows:
---- The holy congregation of Oud-Beijerland
To the beloved Mr Zwi, son of Mr Uri
---on his eightieth birthday
----Niesan 649 (=1889)
In addition, J. Kröger made the following discoveries. In Jewish circles, the name Zwi is also rendered as Hartog, while the name Uri translates as Philip. Hartog Koopman Sr. was the son of Philip Koopman and celebrated his 80th birthday in April 1889. He was a prominent member of the Jewish Community of Oud-Beijerland and a well-known tradesman in the village. He had also presented the Jewish Community with several synagogal objects. In all probability, Hartog Koopman Sr. is the person known in the Jewish community of Oud-Beijerland as Zwi, son of Uri, who received the claimed object from the Jewish Community of Oud-Beijerland in April 1889 as a token of appreciation.
The Committee takes up this conclusion and considers Hartog Koopman Sr. the first owner of the Kiddush cup in the Dutch National Art Collection (NK 3519), for which an application for restitution has now been submitted.
The next question to be answered concerns the ownership situation around 1940. After all, the Committee must advise the State Secretary on loss of possession during the Nazi regime, which is to be based on the ownership situation around 1940. In this context, the applicant declares that the cup was most likely acquired by inheritance by Meier Koopman, one of the sons of Hartog Koopman Sr. To the best of applicant’s knowledge, Meier Koopman was the sole male heir who had a son at the time Hartog Koopman Sr. died in 1892. This grandson of Hartog Koopman Sr., called Hartog Koopman Jr., was born in Oud-Beijerland in 1889 and is said to have inherited the cup from his father Meier, losing possession of it during the war as a result of the Nazi regime. Hartog Koopman Jr. was the applicant’s uncle. The investigation has shown that Hartog Koopman Jr., who perished in Sobibor on 9 July 1943 together with his wife and three children, was robbed of his possessions in various ways during the war through the agency of the Nazis. The investigation also showed that the Kiddush cup was part of a shipment of jewellery, personal effects and other objects of value that was returned to the Netherlands after the war and that were known to have been looted from individuals, particularly Jews, detained in the Netherlands during the war. This shipment of recovered objects comprised wedding rings and other jewellery that probably belonged to a person called ‘Koopman’. Whether this was Hartog Koopman Jr. is information that can no longer be retrieved. Like a lot of other jewellery whose original owners could not be traced, these were remelted or sold, as a result of which they are no longer available for closer inspection. Further investigation by the Committee into traditional Jewish customs that could provide clues as to which of the many children and grandchildren of Hartog Koopman Sr. would be eligible as the new owner yielded no results. This investigation did reveal that Kiddush cups are considered family heirlooms and, as such, are usually passed on within the family. Moreover, one would expect that if the object had been donated to a third party – e.g. a synagogue – a second inscription would demonstrate such a donation. This is not the case.
Based on these facts, the Committee considers it sufficiently demonstrated that the Kiddush cup was owned by one of Hartog Koopman Sr.’s heirs in 1940. In so far as necessary, the Committee refers to the general consideration under c, on the basis of which the risk associated with the loss of evidence is to be borne by the government. The Committee does not consider it necessary to answer the question which of Hartog Koopman Sr.’s many children and grandchildren could be considered the owner of the object in 1940 – unequivocal proof of which is lacking. The Committee’s first consideration is that the applicant submitted his claim in consultation with and also on behalf of the presently known heirs of Hartog Koopman Sr., and not on behalf of Hartog Koopman Jr.’s heirs. In this consideration, it also takes into account the special –ceremonial – significance of the cup for all of Hartog Koopman Sr.’s heirs. Referring to the fact that the Kiddush cup belonged to a 1940 shipment of recovered goods described as ‘goods stolen from Dutch prisoners’, the Committee concludes that the loss of possession of the Kiddush cup was of an involuntary nature, being a result of persecution by the Nazi regime. As no previous application for restitution has been filed for this object, the Committee rules that the current application is admissible and allowable.
The Committee advises the State Secretary to honour the application for restitution of the silver Kiddush cup known as NK 3519 and to return it to the applicant and the parties on whose behalf the claim was submitted, for the benefit of the heirs of Hartog Koopman Sr.
Adopted in the meeting of 3 April 2006,
B.J. Asscher (chair)
P.J.N. van Os
E.J. van Straaten
H.M. Verrijn Stuart
I.C. van der Vlies